Tomato Basil Pizza with Almond Flour Crust

Pizza.

My husband’s kryptonite. A challenge I’ve been dying to accept ever since we made the switch to our keto lifestyle. I had seen recipes for cauliflower crusts, but an Almond Flour Pizza Recipe really caught my eye. Our pizza cravings were at an all time high and I decided it was time to give it a shot.

There were a few hoops I had to jump through to make this meal without cheating. I needed to find a pizza sauce low in sugar and a low carb crust. After looking at the standard pizza sauce I had in the pantry I decided to make my own. I kept this pizza simple and fresh and it turned out delicious. If you’re in the mood for pizza without guilt, give this recipe a try!

Tomato Basil Pizza with Almond Flour Crust

keto pizza

For the crust:

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (I hadn’t gone to the grocery store in a while so I used mozzarella instead)

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 2 tbs fresh basil (roughly chopped)
  • 1 tbs garlic (minced)
  • salt and pepper

Toppings:

  • 1 cup small mozzarella balls
  • 8 fresh basil leaves (torn in half)

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix pizza crust ingredients together in a large bowl. The consistency will seem strange at first (mine stuck to the sides of my standing mixer bowl), but will come together into a squishy ball in your hands.
  3. Spread out the dough on a greased baking sheet. I suggest greasing your hands as well for this process because the dough will be very sticky.
  4. Bake in oven for about 8 minutes, or until dough develops a golden-brown crust.
  5. While the pizza crust is baking, combine cherry tomatoes and garlic in a small sauce pan. Set stove to medium heat.
  6. Cook the tomatoes and garlic until very fragrant and the tomatoes begin breaking down.
  7. Add chopped basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. This sauce will be chunky which is actually how I prefer it, but if you don’t care for large pieces of tomatoes in your sauce, try blending it in a food processor.
  8. When crust is done, remove from oven. Top with sauce, mozzarella balls, and fresh basil leaves.
  9. Return pizza to oven and cook for an additional 8 – 12 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
  10. Eat up!

Although this is a low-carb crust, it held together very well under the weight of the sauce and toppings. It had a unique, almost cornbread-like texture and flavor which I found very appealing. I will be trying this recipe again (and a cauliflower crust recipe) very soon!

Welcome back, pizza.

Caprese Salad in a Season of Celebration

In my family, the Fourth of July has always been celebrated with family and friends, a game or two of bags, fireworks, and, of course, lots and lots of food. I realized that this year I would have to be a bit more strategic in the dish I brought to the family cookout so that it would fit into my new keto diet. I knew there would be several tempting food items at our family get together this year and wanted to make a dish that would be delicious, satisfying, and keep me away from sweets and carbs.
I decided to prepare a caprese salad made with cherry tomatoes and a tangy balsamic dressing for the party. This salad gave me a taste of the sweetness I was craving from staring at rice-krispy treats, berry pies, and chocolate covered pretzels, and was a light and refreshing side to a hot summer day.

Caprese Salad

caprese salad

What you’ll need:

  • 2 – 3 (10 oz) containers of cherry tomatoes (I used a mixture of cherry and sunburst for a pop of color)
  • 1 (8 oz) container of small mozzarella balls
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil (about 10 medium sized leaves)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • salt and pepper

What to do:

  1. Rinse and dry the cherry tomatoes. Slice them in half and place in a large bowl.
  2. Drain the package of mozzarella balls and add them to the bowl with tomatoes.
  3. Roughly chop the basil and add to the same bowl.
  4. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. Whisk thoroughly.
  5. Pour the balsamic dressing over the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil and toss to combine.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Though this salad was made with my dietary concerns in mind, everyone at the party enjoyed it and I think you will too!

Almond Flour Blueberry Pancakes

I have been neglecting my sweet tooth. My cravings have somewhat subsided and I don’t feel a desperate need for sugar, but after eating so many savory meals the past several days, I wanted to mix it up a little bit. I found this carb/sugar free pancake recipe yesterday at Elana’s Pantry and thought it would perfect for breakfast this morning. I had to tweak a few things so that it fit into my keto diet, but the pancakes turned out beautifully and tasted amazing. It was just what I needed to satisfy my sweet tooth and I was able to enjoy them without any guilt! This recipe is so good, you’ll swear you’re cheating.

Almond Flour Blueberry Pancakes

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What you’ll need:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1 scant tbs vanilla extract (organic would be best)
  • 3 packets of stevia (each packet is about 2 tsp each)
  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup blueberries (1/2 cup for filling the pancakes, reserve the other 1/2 cup for a quick “sauce” – see below)
  • 2 – 4 tbs butter for cooking (can be replaced by coconut oil)

What to do:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, water, vanilla extract, and stevia.
  2. Add almond flour, sea salt, and baking soda and mix until all ingredients are combined. The batter will have somewhat of a cornbread batter texture.
  3. Add about 1 tbs of butter to a large pan and set to medium heat.
  4. Once the pan is hot and the butter is sizzling, add pancake batter one large spoonful (~1-2 tbs) at a time. I cooked the pancakes in small batches of three each time to keep from overcrowding the pan.
  5. Add 4-5 blueberries to each pancake. Once the pancakes begin bubbling, flip them over and cook for another minute or so.
  6. Remove pancakes from pan and set aside on a small plate. Before cooking another batch, I added an additional tbs of butter to the pan to keep it from burning and to make sure all of the pancakes got a little crispy around the edges.
  7. When finished, the pancakes should be golden-brown, with a crispy crust.

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*The blueberries really helped in adding sweetness to this meal and I was so glad I included them in this recipe. If you’re like me though, you’ll want something to dip your pancakes in. Unfortunately, syrup is not on the list of approved keto foods so I had to get creative. Here is what you can do with the remaining half cup of blueberries to create your own dipping sauce:

  1. Place blueberries in a microwave safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. As the blueberries warm, they will start producing their own natural juice and some may even pop!
  2. Take a fork or spoon and roughly mash the berries together.
  3. Spoon on top of your pancakes or just dip away! The pancakes will absorb this sauce nicely. You don’t need to add any extra sugar or stevia because blueberries are so naturally sweet and flavorful on their own.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!

Baked Avocado and Egg Breakfast

It’s day five of the keto diet (we’ve finally given it a label) and the more research I do on this new lifestyle, the happier I am with my decision to drop carbs and processed sugars!  I have been experiencing a touch of the carb flu (dizziness, feeling light-headed, a little weakness – especially in the legs), but I am feeling inspired and motivated to keep going. I will tell you that drinking A LOT of water will be very helpful in curbing this “flu”.

This morning I decided to try a keto meal that had caught my eye quite some time ago, but was slightly skeptical about – baked avocado and egg. I wasn’t sure how I felt about eating a warm avocado or if I would like the egg/avocado combination, but I am pleased to say that I ended up finding this breakfast very delicious and super satisfying. It was also very easy to make which is always a bonus. I strongly suggest you give this one a try!

Baked Avocado and Egg

Baked Avocado and Egg

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs crumbled bacon
  • salt and pepper

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut one avocado in half. Set the avocado half with the attached pit to the side to use later.
  3. Using a small spoon, scoop out some extra avocado around the center (enough to fit the egg yolk and white). I suggest eating the spooned out avocado with a tiny sprinkle of salt and a drop of lime juice…but that’s just me.
  4. Place the avocado in a small ramekin or a muffin pan to prevent it from rolling around in the oven.
  5. Crack one egg into the center of the avocado and season with salt and pepper. It’s okay if some egg white spills over the edge of the avocado.
  6. Sprinkle crumbled bacon over the top and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.
  7. Once egg is fully cooked, remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes to cool.
  8. Eat while still warm! The egg developed a slight crispy crust around the edges and I strongly recommend using the bacon! The avocado and egg had a soft, creamier texture, so the bacon provided a lovely crunch.

Seriously, give this recipe a try! I will definitely be making this again and again for breakfast.

Day 3 – Chicken Avocado Lettuce Wraps

I foresee lunch being a difficult time of day for me. It’s the middle of the day, I’m usually low on energy, and I start craving salty, crunchy food. Who doesn’t love a big sandwich on thick sliced, toasted bread or a handful of crispy potato chips for lunch?? I was starving on my way home from summer school and knew I had to think of a meal plan before I got home or risk binging on the last sleeve of Ritz crackers I found in the back corner of my pantry. I had tuna wraps in mind, but my plan quickly dissolved after realizing we were out of tuna. Things got a bit dramatic. Then my brilliant husband decided to cook up some chicken instead and we ended up eating a delicious and very satisfying lunch! So here you go, my take on a carb free, non-processed lunch!

Chicken Avocado Lettuce Wraps

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What you’ll need:

  • 2 small cooked chicken breasts
  • 1 large avocado
  • lime juice
  • salt
  • fresh cilantro
  • red onion
  • romaine lettuce

What to do:

  1. Cook chicken breasts as desired. My husband seasoned ours with salt and pepper and grilled it. We added some poultry seasoning as it was cooking. You could easily cook it in a pan on the stove or bake in the oven before adding it to the wrap.
  2. Slice up the chicken and allow it to cool slightly.
  3. Dice avocado into 1/2 inch cubes and sprinkle salt and lime juice over the top. Toss to coat evenly.
  4. Roughly chop 1-2 tbs of fresh cilantro.
  5. Finely slice about 1 tbs of red onion.
  6. Place chicken on a large romaine lettuce leaf and top with avocado, red onion, and cilantro.
  7. Eat! I served mine with fresh strawberries on the side and it was a very cool, refreshing lunch on this hot day!

A Season Without Carbs – Garlic Roasted Cabbage

Is this real life?? In an attempt to lose weight and become healthier humans, the husby and I are cutting carbs and processed food from our diet! I tried this lifestyle about one year ago (in preparations for the wedding dress) and found that I felt better, had more energy, and lost weight. Unfortunately, the honeymoon happened…at an all-inclusive resort…with breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets…and my new and improved lifestyle fell to the wayside. Well, we have decided to pick it up again and we’re getting serious. We cleansed the refrigerator and pantry of carbs and junky processed foods! We even donated our almost full carton of ice cream to my parents’ house (insert dramatic sob). I sound really excited and enthusiastic about this because it is only Day 2 of our new healthy eating habits. Anyway, we are now focusing on eating a healthy amount of protein, LOTS of vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner now consist of meals prepared from fresh ingredients and are turning out to be very satisfying and delicious. I will say though, my sweet tooth is kicking into hyperdrive already. I think I’m going through sugar withdrawal.

Usually, my dinners consist of a protein, vegetable, and some form of carbohydrate. Tonight we ditched the carbs and went with an additional veggie instead – roasted cabbage. Cabbage is something I’m recently realizing that I enjoy and when I found this recipe on Pinterest I was interested in giving it a shot! It was very simple to make and my skeptical husband ended up loving it!

Garlic Roasted Cabbage

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What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 head green cabbage
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper

Let’s get roastin’!

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Using a large knife, slice the cabbage into about 1/2 inch steaks and place on a large baking sheet.
  3. Mince the garlic (I just used my garlic press) and add to about 3 tbs of olive oil in a small bowl.
  4. Brush the olive oil and garlic mixture onto both sides of the cabbage steaks.
  5. Season both sides of cabbage with salt and pepper.
  6. Roast the cabbage in the oven for 30 minutes or until the centers become soft and the tops and sides of the cabbage become brown and slightly crispy. I checked my cabbage about halfway through and used to spatula to move them around on the pan a bit so they would not stick.

I served my cabbage along with steak and roasted asparagus and it all went very well together! I will be making this again soon!

Steak and Summer (Almost)

Though school is out and the weather has warmed, I am still not quite in the glorious, rejuvenating season of summer . Summer school began the first week of break and I welcomed another group of little humans into my classroom for the next few weeks. Though summer doesn’t technically begin until the June 21st, I definitely felt it’s sweet heaviness as I walked to my car after school. Naturally, this summery weather made me hungry for a summery meal. I picked up some thin boneless ribeye steak, pico de gallo, guacamole, and queso fresco at the Fresh Market on my way home and began prepping dinner as soon as I walked through the door – can you tell I was hungry?? Dinner tonight was fajita marinated steak tacos and let me tell you, it was delicious.

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Fajita Marinated Steak Tacos

What you’ll need:

  • 1 – 2 pounds thin ribeye steaks
  • salt and pepper
  • soft shell tortillas (flour or corn)
  • guacamole
  • pico de gallo
  • queso fresco

For the marinade:

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 packet fajita mix
  • 1 tbs cilantro (fresh would be nice, but I was all out)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne

What to do:

  1. Combine marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk well.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of steaks with salt and pepper.
  3. Place steaks and marinade in a gallon sized zip lock bag and shake to coat all sides. Press out excess air and lay the bag flat in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  4. Remove steak from the fridge 30 – 45 minutes before cooking to bring to room temperature.
  5. Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat until pan is very hot. You should feel the heat radiating off of the pan by holding your hand directly above it.
  6. Place 2 or 3 steaks in the pan at a time and cook for no more than 2 minutes on each side.
  7. Remove steaks from pan and allow them to rest for about 5 minutes on a plate to lock in the juices before slicing.
  8. Warm tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Place steak, queso fresco, guacamole, and pico de gallo inside the tortilla and EAT!

This dish turned out deliciously with very little effort. I was happy I used ribeye steaks because the fat wasn’t gristly or chewy, it practically melted in your mouth. I will definitely be making this marinated steak again, next time serving it fajita style!

A Season of Side Dishes – Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes, awesome. Caramelized onions, amazing. Put them together? Holy crap.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • 5 medium potatoes
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded gruyere cheese
  • 5 pieces of cooked bacon, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper

What To Do:

  1. Cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Place in the bottom of a large pot and cover with cold water. Set on stove and begin cooking over high heat.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, finely dice the yellow onion. Place 2 – 3 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan and set burner to medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and sizzling, add the onion. We are caramelizing the onion, so low and slow is key! If the onions seem to be cooking too quickly and getting too dark, turn down the heat. It will probably take about 20 – 30 minutes to really break those onions down into their sweetest, tastiest form. 
  3. Once the potatoes are cooked (this is when you pierce them with a fork and they slide off easily), drain from the pot and place in a mixing bowl. 
  4. Add remainder of butter (I know it’s a lot, but it’s SOOOO GOOD), milk, and garlic powder. Mix until ingredients are combined and potatoes are smooth, I like to turn my standing mixer up high and whip them good for a few seconds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can also adjust the amount of milk you use depending on the consistency of your potatoes.
  5. Add caramelized onions, bacon, and shredded gruyere cheese. Stir to combine.

I never said this would be a healthy side dish, but I am telling you that it is delicious.

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Banana Bread on a Great Good Friday

As many of you probably know, today is Good Friday! Being a teacher, I had the day off today and thank goodness for that! I decided to use this extra time to do something I hadn’t done in a while – bake! We had a couple of overripe bananas chillin’ out in our freezer so I decided to put them to good use. Though I do not care for bananas in their raw form, I am always down for banana bread. I have been using this recipe, found at The Daily Muse, for a while now and it turns out delicious every time! The crust has a light, crispy crunch and is very soft and moist on the inside. Of course everything gets a little lot better when you add chocolate so I like to fill my banana bread with mini chocolate chips to make it just a bit sweeter. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

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What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 or 2 [large] handfuls of mini chocolate chips

Let’s Bake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 ºF.
  2. Cream melted butter and sugar in a large bowl. Mix in the beaten egg and mashed bananas*.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
  4. Stir in lemon juice and chocolate chips. Pour into a well greased loaf pan and bake for 15 minutes at 375 ºF.
  5. After the bread has been baking for 15 minutes reduce the heat to 350 ºF and continue baking for another 45 minutes.

*As soon as our bananas get too many brown spots for the husby’s liking, I put them in the freezer to store them for later use. Freezing the overripe bananas actually makes them a lot easier to mash! When you’re ready to use your frozen bananas, just pop them in the microwave and defrost them for 1 or 2 minutes. The bananas will slide right out of the peel and already have a mushy, mashed up consistency so you can just mix them right into the batter! Very easy and only slightly disgusting.

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An April Snow Shower and Sweet Cinnamon Rolls

Springtime in Chicagoland sure can be strange. I spent my weekend frolicking around in 70 degree weather only to be slapped in the face by a wintry mix today. What started as a rainy spring morning turned into a full on blizzard this afternoon and the newly green grass is once again coated in fluffy, white powder. It actually looks quite beautiful. I decided that instead of getting grumpy about it, I’m going to put on my wool socks, heat up a cup of tea, and enjoy what I hope to be the last glimpses of winter.

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It’s a day like this that really puts me in the mood to bake. However, I have a math test to create and a jazz concert of my husband’s to attend tonight so baking won’t make it into my schedule of events. I do have a great recipe to share with you though! I made these cinnamon rolls a few months back (found at Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen) and have been dreaming of them ever since. They are soft, sweet, sticky, and basically one of the most amazing baked goods you will ever put in your mouth. If I were going to bake something tonight, these would do just fine.

What you’ll need:

For the Dough:

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 4 ½ cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

For the Frosting:

  • 3 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

What to do:

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk in the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix in the sugar, butter, salt, and eggs. Add the flour in quarters and mix well. Use the hook attachment to knead the dough into a large ball.
  2. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and place in a warm spot to rise for an hour or until doubled in size. My ball of dough took more than an hour to rise, but once it did it looked glorious.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix cinnamon and brown sugar together in a small bowl.
  4. Roll the dough into a large rectangle (not too thin, I kept mine about 1/4 inch thick) and spread the softened butter over the surface of the dough.
  5. Sprinkle the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture evenly over the top of the dough.Image
  6. Roll the dough up and cut into 12 – 14 individual rolls. The two end pieces will be smaller and some might say discard them, but I used them because why would I want to waste precious little cinnamon rolls??Image
  7. Place rolls in a greased baking pan (I used butter and flour). Cover and let rise about 30 minutes or until about doubled in size.
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  8. Bake cinnamon rolls in oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While you’re drooling over the smell coming out of the oven, mix together the frosting ingredients. ImageImage
  9. Spread frosting over warm cinnamon rolls and devour.

ImageI’m telling you now, it will be hard to eat only one.

*I only frosted the cinnamon rolls I was planning on serving right away to make storing the extra rolls less messy. I placed the remaining rolls in a zip lock bag and stored them in the fridge. When I wanted to eat another one, I would pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften it and then frost it (I stored the extra frosting in a tupperware container in the fridge).